Friday, May 11, 2012

EDITORIAL >> Hunger in schools

Many school children here are going hungry as The Leader’s Jeffrey Smith reported on Wednesday.

But the Arkansas Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program, with help from teachers and faculty, provides school children in need with backpacks packed with kid-friendly meals and snacks that are often their only sustenance when school is not in session.

Smith’s report, “Food for Kids provides meals here,” included a chilling quote from a pupil at Beebe’s Badger Elementary: Not having food “makes my throat dry. I can barely move. That’s what it’s like to be hungry.”

The student said he and his siblings do better in school with Rice Depot’s assistance.

Last year, the program helped 370 students in the Cabot School District, 309 in the Pulaski County Special School District, 50 in Lonoke and 75 in Beebe.

The food program is as innovative as it is compassionate. Aware that teachers are often the first to see under-nourished children, the Rice Depot recruits help from school staff. The food is slyly placed in book bags so students won’t feel singled out.

A counselor at Badger Elementary said, “Some kids will complain of hunger and not had anything to eat the night before.” Let’s help teachers hear that less often because hungry kids can’t learn.

Donations may be sent to a particular school district. One child can be fed for the whole month with just $30, $200 will feed all the hungry students in one school and $2,000 provides a year’s supply of food for all hungry students in a school.

The problem is especially worrisome as summer approaches, though some school districts will be offering meals for children over the break.

The Beebe School District will offer free meals in the summer to youngsters 18 years and under. Meals will be available Monday through Friday from May 29 to Aug. 3, except for July 4th.

Beebe Elementary School’s cafeteria will serve breakfast from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Lunch will be served from 11 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Lunch will also be available at Edward Lunnie Park on East Oklahoma Street behind Mount Arratt Baptist Church from 11:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and at William Nick Firefighters Park behind the health department on Fir Street from 12:25 to 1 p.m.

Meals at McRae will be available at the city park behind city hall from 11 to 11:30 a.m.

The Cabot School District will offer youngsters free lunches during the summer at the Ward Central Elementary cafeteria from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from the first week of June to the end of July.

The lunch program will be paid with a grant from the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

The Pulaski County Special School District has a year-round program with people on staff to help. Kids can go to the Learning Center on Dixon Road from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays for food.

For more information about the Rice Depot’s Food for Kids program, contact your local schools or call 501-565-8855 or visit